KAILUA-KONA — First-line supervisors remain a priority for law enforcement during discussions with the county on additional budget needs for the upcoming fiscal year, officials told police commissioners last week.
On Friday, Hawaii Police Maj. Sam Thomas told the Hawaii County Police Commission the proposed budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year is $69.309 million. A supplemental budget was also provided to the county that came out to another $4.2 million.
Thomas said the additional costs come from things that were identified as needs by the department 12 to 13 years ago.
“It looks for predominantly first-line supervisors for some of the smaller districts,” Thomas said. “What we’re trying to do is get 24-hour police supervision or as close to it as possible. Right now, a lot of our smaller districts don’t have that.”
Some of the districts have no supervisor on duty 68 percent of the time, the major said.
“We don’t think that’s a real good idea in terms of liability and overall good leadership and responsibility towards the community,” Thomas said. “You have to have supervisors on duty, especially in the smaller districts where you have younger officers and they don’t have much experience.”
The supplemental budget requests funding for nine sergeant positions and two lieutenants, which would cost approximately $3 million. The newly created positions include one sergeant in Hilo, two in North Kohala, two in South Kohala, one lieutenant in Puna, two sergeants and one lieutenant in Ka‘u, one sergeant in Hamakua and one sergeant in Kona.
Commission President Wayne De Luz said he could see the need for line supervisors.
With the several retirements that occurred over the past several months, De Luz assumed the average tenure among sworn personnel is now low.
The supervisors need to “lead them in the right direction,” he said.
Thomas told commissioners the department is also trying to “beef up” on police radio dispatchers, particularly in the Ka‘u District. Currently, the Puna dispatcher is taking calls from Ka‘u.
“Puna, by itself, is a lot,” Thomas said.
On top of that, the major said, a lot of people have been moving to the Ocean View area because it’s currently the most affordable place to purchase a home.
With that comes more calls for service.
The department would like to hire five more dispatcher positions to man a consul to take calls for the Ka‘u District.
Police Chief Paul Ferreira told commissioners during the chief’s report the supplemental budget also included funding requests for equipment, body cameras, vehicles, computer equipment and “quite a few other things.”
“Whether we’re going to get anything, I don’t know,” Ferreira said. “Our primary focus is our supervisory personnel.” Thomas also went over the current sworn personnel for the department. As of Dec. 31, there were 44 vacancies on the road.
He clarified that out of those 44, five were in field training. Three of those five will be assigned to districts on Feb. 1.
Thomas said 22 officers are currently in academic training, which started on Dec. 1. On Feb. 1, a new recruit class will start with seven individuals approved for hire.
After that class, there will be eight sworn vacancies.